Starting Your Family Research

pedigreeAt the initiation of any family research, start with yourself. Using the basic pedigree chart, list your full name, birth and marriage dates and locations. It is also good to add your siblings with their information. You might be surprised to see a given name, such as; Nicholas, Elizabeth or Myrtle, appear in an earlier ancestor’s name, so you do need full names.

Next add your parents with their information. If there are items you don’t know, either write down a guess or an approximate answer with a question mark. Maybe you are unsure of where your father was born. If you are certain of the county, write that, or if it was a particular region, indicate that locality. You need a commencement point and the information can always be corrected once you have some primary sources and vital records to back up the data.

Continue the pedigree chart out to grandparents and great grandparents if you have knowledge or even a guess of a name or location. Even placing ‘Grandma Hattie’ is fine as a starting point.

With a basic chart in hand, it can be beneficial to contact other living family members. There might be a sister, a cousin or an aunt who you were not aware that is or already has worked on compiling a family pedigree chart. Putting together what two or more other family members have can produce great rewards.

If there are no supplementary family charts out there, still contact the family members, especially older relatives to ask about the names on your lineage chart. If you only knew your grandfather on your mother’s side as ‘Grandfather Clyde,’ an aunt of yours might know his full name as ‘Clyde Herbert Wellsbee.’

Send relatives copies of what you have gathered on the pedigree chart, asking them to add what they recall on those individuals listed. This can be a great source of information for the family history. To help encourage relatives to write you back included a self-addressed and stamped envelope in which they can reply. Again, those rich additions of information about occupations, skills, talents, residences, etc. that an ancestor possessed can better help you know that person.

When contacting relatives, whether by phone, email or letter; ask for any copies of photos, documents, newspaper articles, etc. they may own. A wealth of information can be accumulated by starting to gather these items. If a relative lives nearby, offer to come to their home to assist in getting that large box of photos down from the attic or the notebook of letters off the top shelf in the closet. They may not realize what they have until a hunt is undertaken.

The key element to remember once you begin a genealogical project, allow yourself time. It took many decades for your ancestors to make their mark and live their lives, it will definitely take time for you to bring the information together.

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